LEARNING DISABILITY – A DIFFERENT ABILITY

Confidence surges in gradually…will power develops over time… But, how do tender minds, yet to grasp the reality of their lives, grapple with ‘disabilities’? In fact, I prefer using the expression “special abilities” instead of ‘disabilities’ – not simply because it serves as a dignified euphemism, but because it really is true! People who lack some of the basic abilities that define normal healthy human beings, are gifted with certain special abilities that ‘normal complete human beings’ lack.

Children don’t really feel that they lack something till it is pointed out to them. Once pointed out, they easily believe the cooked-up explanation given to them by loved ones. But once the index finger is shaken heavily at them, they realize that there is something wrong with them and that they are not like others. This shatters their self-confidence and self-esteem – their sense of being who they are. Some fortunate ones bounce back as they are surrounded by people who pump positive energy and constant encouragement into them. Some, who lack this support system, end up broken.

Of the many disabilities that hit early in life, learning disability is significant. Learning disability is a neurological disorder which interferes with reading, writing and/or arithmetic of children. It commonly includes dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and dyspraxia. Children with learning disability may be as smart as other children, but with limited abilities in academics. Moreover, this is something that they have to live with – there is no cure for this; only coping mechanisms to help them build on their strengths while overcoming their weaknesses.

During my growing up years, learning disability was almost never heard of. There were simply weak, dull and underperforming students. But over the years, as research studies become more popular, awareness about learning disability is increasing. Working with children with learning disability, I have discovered that right from the home front, these children are made to realize that they lack something vital (given the loaded emphasis on education in our culture). This kills them from within. While it is true that these children will always remain average or below average in academics, they show their sparks when it comes to painting, sports, visual graphics, etc. At times, things worsen when learning disability is co-morbid with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in which children are hyperactive and lack the ability to focus on tasks.

While it is a struggle to help such children cope and come up in life, the efforts have never been in vain. What is required is constant stimulation from parents, teachers and loved ones. The Indian education system has of late recognized this special ability and has put in provisions to ensure that such children complete basic schooling. Still, there is much to be done! The denial rate among parents is very high leading to delayed intervention for the children.

I have seen parents weep when they realize that their child cannot be the topper of the class. What they fail to understand is that given the proper stimulation, they can see Thomas Alva Edisons, Albert Einsteins, Agatha Christies and Michael Phelps in their own homes! (Edison, Einstein and Christie were dyslexic, while Phelps has ADHD)

Never underestimate the potential of a child with learning disability – wait to marvel at their hidden God-given potentials. Encourage them for who they are, don’t discourage them for what they lack. They are pearls hidden under the sand, waiting to be discovered!

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